Artful expression from Camp Owen

Photos by Debbie Teofilo / Special to the Sun

By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun

The youth at Camp Erwin Owen are often seen helping out at a variety of community events during the year, but this month they found a new way to enrich the lives of Kern River Valley residents.

Throughout the month of April, students at Erwin Owen High School are exhibiting their watercolors, metal sculptures, and masks at the Kern Valley Museum Art Room by invitation of the Kern River Valley Art Association. Four of the students were on hand at an opening reception on April 7 to greet guests and answer questions about their work.

The most prominent artwork in the collection is a set of 16 head silhouette watercolors on loan from a student project lead by teacher Elissa Beckham. The student artists stated that the project purpose was for each of them to express their unique thoughts by using only the outline of a head, their own words, and watercolors of their choosing. Since the silhouette was initially traced, no one had to have drawing skills in order to participate.

The result of merging the students’ written words with their visual art creates emotionally powerful art that cannot fail to move anyone who examines it. Many of the color combinations are vibrant and beautiful, and immediately capture the attention of the viewer. But moving in closer to read the words within the art pieces will generate strong emotions and leave a lasting impression about the conflicts these youth are experiencing.
Examples of words appearing in the works are “lies, regrets, hate, lonely, pain, and numb,” as well as “loyalty, family, friends, and respect.” A few sentences are voiced within the artwork such as “Why can’t I just be normal like the others!!” and “Why is my struggle so beautiful?”

KRV Art Association members, lead by curator Patricia Moitra, awarded a ribbon to Ira for his silhouette. Moitra told him that the words he used rang true for all of us at some point in our lives, and perhaps he might become a writer someday.

The art collection displays 10 metal sculptures that were created within the Camp Owen welding program. Some of them reflect themes of conflict, such as Atlas holding the world on his shoulders and Rodin’s ‘The Thinker.’ But others are whimsical and humorous, such as a cowboy on horseback made out of wrenches, and a band of musicians; both pieces received award ribbons.
Eight brightly colored masks hang above the other artwork lending a festive mood to the display and reminding us to look for the bright spots and humor in life. Perhaps that is why the creative youth of Camp Erwin Owen decided to title their exhibit “Confining Art.”